Selma mulls future of historic St. James Hotel; management co. t - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

Selma mulls future of historic St. James Hotel; management co. tries to end 5-year deal

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SELMA, AL (WSFA) -

Diane Smitherman owns the 'Side Porch Sandwich Shop' next door to St. James Hotel in downtown Selma. Smitherman has no desire to see the hotel close but that's a possibility.

"We depend on each other," said Smitherman, a native of Selma.

The city of Selma owns the hotel. The issue is Gourmet Services, the Georgia company that manages St. James. Gourmet Services wants to terminate its contract with the city despite the fact the company just signed a new 5-year deal with Selma.

WSFA 12 News tried to get Gourmet Services' side of the story but no one returned our call. The general manager of St. James also declined to make any statements.

A closer look at the property clearly shows St. James isn't the jewel on the Alabama River it once was more than a decade ago; rust and time are taking their toll.

The majority of the Selma city council wants to give it another shot, another management company to run St. James. Others on the council feel it's time to let it go and sell it to a reputable hotel chain.

"The management there has just let things go. Problems weren't reported to the city in a timely manner," said councilwoman Susan Keith who represents District Two.

Councilwoman Keith says she isn't aware of the details in the contract but feels Gourmet Services should be penalized for breaking the contract with the city.

Smitherman tends to agree the city should get out of the business of owning a hotel. Smitherman just doesn't want to see it close considering St. James supplies 15% of her business at the sandwich shop.

"That is a big chunk for a small business like mine," said Smitherman.

Mayor George Evans was not available for an interview on the story. City leaders say Gourmet Services' contract cancellation comes at a bad time because there are several events booked for the summer at St. James.

An 'up or down' vote on the hotel's future could come Tuesday night during the council's regular meeting.

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